Asus is best known for its innovative high-end laptops rather than its budget entry-level models, so the Asus F5R (£339 inc. VAT) is something of a surprise.

It takes its styling from more expensive Asus machines, but instead of magnesium alloy, you'll find the case is made from solid plastic.

Weighing 2.7kg, there is a reasonable degree of portability to be had and, while the battery life was in excess of two hours, it isn't ideal for daily use away from mains power. That said, the Asus has good build quality, so if you do need to take it on the move, it will certainly stand up to the wear and tear.

Built-in webcam

The 15.4-inch Super-TFT screen has plenty of protection behind it, so there is little or no flex when the laptop is closed. You'll find a webcam above the screen that can rotate 180-degrees, so can be used as a stills camera should the need arise.

The screen is of a good quality with a reasonable viewing angle. When on mains power it is bright and sharp, but you'll need to ramp up the brightness when on battery power as we found it dimmed considerably.

Graphics consist of the integrated ATi Radeon Xpress 1100 GPU, which is an entry-level solution. We found it fine for video and using the internet, but it won't handle games or heavy multimedia files.

Much better is the keyboard, which we found a pleasure to use. The keys feel rather small, but they have plenty of space around them. More importantly, they feel solid to the touch and don't rattle as you type, making this a great keyboard for typing long-term on. The touchpad is a decent size, as is the single strip that makes up the mouse buttons.

Mixed performance

When it came to performance, we found the F5R something of a mixed bag. The use of an Intel Core 2 Duo T2250 processor is adequate for basic tasks, but slow compared to much of the competition. With 1024MB of memory, loading Windows Vista Home Premium Edition was reasonably quick, but this isn't the ideal machine for running multiple tasks.

Aside from the webcam, features are normal, with standard Ethernet and wireless LAN built in. The four USB ports are split between the back and the left side of the case. A DVD rewriter can be found on the right side of the case, but nothing else.

The Asus F5R is a solid and robust machine that delivers great value for money, but is outclassed by rivals in terms of power and battery life . However, what makes this machine shine is the quality screen and the highly usable keyboard.